The Essential Prepper’s Library: 30 Books Every Prepared Family Should Own

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

Preppers tend to be relatively old-fashioned, and one thing that most of us have in common is a yen to own physical copies of information that we find valuable.

There are tons of other great books out there, so if your favorite isn’t included on the list, that doesn’t mean that I found anything wrong with it. The following list is of the books that I personally own and have found to be valuable.

(Note: Due to shameless self-promotion, my own books are on the list and marked with a *.)

When I first started this list back in 2014, there were only 15 books on it. But, as I read new books, I thought it was time for an update. Here are the 30 preparedness books that I recommend that you all have in your personal libraries.

General Preparedness

Food

Water

Mindset

Health

Self-sufficiency

Home and Personal Defense

What’s in your library?

Do you have these books? Do you also recommend them? What books would you add to the list?

The Essential Prepper\'s Library: 30 Books Every Prepared Family Should Own
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Two books I really enjoyed and found useful were When All Hell Breaks Loose by Cody Lundin and Prepare Your Family For Survival by Linda Loosli

    Bookmarking this list as I only have about a third of them on my shelves

    • My parents had the wonderful Foxfire books. My kids really enjoyed them. Lots of very soundly proven old ways.

  • I would add Sailing the Farm, by Ken Neumeyer, Reader’s Digest Back to Basics: How to Learn Traditional American Skills, suggested by Jan; I would also concur with the Firefox series. Purchase any cook book prior to 1940’s that has a section on cooking game meat from opossum and squirrel to various wild birds that most people wouldn’t consider to be a part of the menu today. We also liked books from the 1970’s such as the Apartment Farmer. We found the 1970’s has a parallel to our current time period to get back to growing natural food instead of store bought preservatives. Much of the prepper literature is a reboot of what our culture used to do, but has forgotten. A stroll down a used bookstore aisle on gardening, home improvement, back to basics, homesteading, alternative energy, is always well worth the trip.

  • I would add The Humanure Handbook, because if we are grid-down crapping into fresh drinking water is going to be stupidly wasteful, I mean even more than it already is. Waste borne diseases are going to be one of the biggest hazards we face in a disaster and everyone should have a plan for how they will deal with their human byproducts. The Humanure Handbook lays out a solid plan for solving that problem, with the bonus of a payoff in some of the richest fertilizer available which will be much needed and appreciated in such a scenario.

    • That’s especially true where I live in the mile high desert of the sw Rockies. Water/rainfall is in such short supply that everyone will be living on top of one another on the banks of the few shallow rivers and small man-made lakes such as we have. Likely as not, motorcycle and street gangs will control a lot of this territory as people will have no choice but to go to these very few reliable sources for water.

    • I’m not opposed to buying ‘The Humanure Handbook’ but I don’t know of one person that would poop in fresh water (as stated in the reference). Is sanitation going to be a problem post-SHTF? of course it is, but here’s an idea… build an outhouse and cover the poop after each use with dirt, sawdust, ashes or hydrated lime. When that 6 ft. deep hole fills up, you dig another one 4 ft. away and move the outhouse over the new hole.
      Please, don’t put human crap on my food garden, regardless of what a book says.

      • Bacteria and worms only live in the top half metre (two feet) of soil. If you only dig your hole that deep your poop will be completely gone six months after you move to the next hole. If you dig a six foot hole the poop will still be there in 200 years and you’ll keep accidentally digging up the old ones trying to find a new spot!

      • Also, tiger worms love human poop. You can buy them at some hardware stores in the garden section. Don’t however put lime in with them as they will die. Sawdust or wood chips from untreated timber works really well. You can use humanure on trees but I have friends that were using it on their vegetable garden and they were continuously getting intestinal worms so had to stop.

        Book suggestion – permaculture: a designers manual by Bill Mollison

  • You could add to your income by putting together several selections and selling them. How much for a complete set?

  • Great list Daisy! I need to acquire a bunch of these 🙂

    One thing I have found very valuable is my collection of Mother Earth News magazines. I asked for a subscription a few Christmases ago, and while I don’t homestead or anything currently, there is SO much info on such a wide variety of topics. I like them because not only are there informative articles on most of the topics above, but there are a lot of practical plans for things I would be needing to build or put in place in a disaster scenario.

  • I’m going to go off-script and recommend a copy of Hoyle. Boredom and depression are just as serious a potential problem after a grid-down situation as the others listed above. And especially today, with kids (and even adults) living electronically, it’s important to have something entertaining (but quiet) to do in the downtimes. I remember my grandmother, who lived on a farm and did canning and vegetable gardening and caring for the animals and everything… she taught me how to play solitaire.

    • We just acquired Banangrams — great fun. You can play “Solitaire” with a bunch of letters.

      Pioneer Kitchen was a lucky find. How to make something out of nothing and have it taste good. Also, Better Than Store Bought. This oldie but goodie has recipes for many of the things we buy already premade, Real scratch cooking.

  • Other books worthy of some room on the shelf:

    Survival Manuals – Introduction to concepts

    How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times – by James Wesley Rawles
    When All Hell Breaks Loose – by Cody Lundin
    Surviving Doomsday – A Guide for Surviving an Urban Disaster – by Richard Duarte

    Homesteading / Self Sufficient Skills

    Build Your Own underground Root Cellar – by Phyllis Hobson
    Four Season Harvest – by Eliot Coleman
    All New Squarefoot Garden – by Mel Bartholomew
    Stocking Up: How to Preserve the Foods You Grow, Naturally – by Carol Stoner
    Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners – by Suzanne Ashworth
    Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game – by John J. Mettler
    Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition – by Abigail R. Gehring
    The Outdoor Knots Book (Mountaineers Outdoor Basics) – by Clyde Soles
    When Technology Fails (Revised & Expanded): A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency – by Matthew Stein
    Cookin’ with Home Storage – by Peggy Layton

    Natural Remedies / First Aid

    Indian Herbalogy of North America – by Alma Hutchens
    The Complete Medicinal Herbal: A Practical Guide to the Healing Properties of Herbs, with More Than 250 Remedies for Common Ailments – by Penelope Ody
    Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places – by Steve Brill
    Emergency War Surgery – by Nato
    First Aid: Fundamentals for Survival – by James Hubbard

    Tactical Methods / Strategies / Security

    Special Forces Guerrilla Warfare Manual – by Wimberley Scott
    Tactical Pistol Marksmanship: How to Improve Your Combat Shooting Skills – by Gabriel Suarez
    Boston’s Gun Bible – by Boston T. Party
    The Secure Home – by Joel Skousen
    Strategic Relocation–North American Guide to Safe Places, 3rd Edition – by Joel Skousen
    One Nation, Under Surveillance — Privacy From the Watchful Eye – by Boston T. Party

  • There are a lot of how to books, on subjects like gardening, building, hunting, fishing, sewing and other needle crafts, foraging,starting fires without matches, first aid,natural remedies, making candles and soaps, cooking outside, making weapons and etc… They vary from beginner level to expert.. I’d recommend at least one in each category , and to practice each until you feel confident that you can do it if, and when it becomes needed. do not wait, and try to learn when you need it, that’s too much to deal with.

  • Probably not an essential in the top 25 list but definitely one I find helpful nevertheless: “Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine” by Andrew Chevellier. Comprehensive, quick reference.

  • Beyond Collapse Surviving and rebuilding Civilization from scratch . T. Joseph Miller Jr.
    Gaia’s Garden (A guide to home-scale Permaculture) Toby Hemenway

  • I use Phyllis Balch’s book frequently: Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food … A-To-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies)

  • One book would be excellent. It’s called The Jungle Camp Cookbook put out by Wycliffe/Summer Institute of Linguistics.

    Amazing recipes using all kinds of substitutions and basic ingredients. Even had a recipe for how to make soda crackers.

    Unfortunately these are vintage and difficult to find. Ebay and amazon $50-75.00

    In grid down situation would be very valuable.

  • The Wild & Weedy Apothecary by Doreen Shababy. An A to Z book of herbal concoctions, recipes and remedies. Practical know how. Ointment and tincture instructions and more.

  • Good list . My first books were Readers Digest Back to basics,because it gives such acomprehensive overview of all things “off-grid”, and The Woodwright’s shop
    ( series of 3 books) showing basic woodworking techniques
    AND how to make the tools , then Indian herbology of
    North America by Alma R Hutchens ,,plus many of the same books in your list.
    Keep yer powder dry and keep up the good work Daisy,
    To quote Creek … it’s not if but when.

  • Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. Also can be kept on a visible bookshelf and doesn’t blare “prepper”.

  • Thank you, Daisy for not recommending a bunch of prepper “novels” like so many other sites do. I’ve read enough of those to realize they’re not a source of credible info, just fictional stories of straw people solving carefully contrived problems they’ve never had in a world that never was. One Second After is a fine example. After many months our hero’s village is attacked by a motorcycle gang that “somehow” acquires enough fresh gasoline to ride their modern motorcycles across the country to attack said village, actually firing machine guns while riding their bikes. Only an idiot with a serious tv addiction problem would believe any of it. FYI, an average machine gun–not a movie prop, limited by a 20-36 round magazine is literally emptied in 2-3 seconds of continuous firing. Try that from a moving motorcycle running on year-old stale gasoline, and then change magazines when the weapon runs dry…

    • Word! The ignorance many have concerning weapons, even those who own them, is something that can really screw you in a true SHTF/survival situation. Other than water and food, ammo will be the most valuable possession one can have and I will NOT be trading it for goods from others. They’ll have to take it…IF…they can. And I damn sure won’t be spraying and praying with it.

  • Free Downloads:

    The LDS Preparedness Manual (220 pg.) (I’m not LDS but it’s an excellent manual from those that practice preparedness and it’s free!)

    Survival and Austere Medicine, An Introduction. 3rd ed. – (610 pages) Excellent medical advice and techniques, both modern and alternative.

    Air Force Handbook 10-644 Survival-Evasion-Resistance-Escape March 2017 (646 pg)

    Not free but add to the list…

    Pocket Ref. by Thomas Glover – information on everything from lumber sizes, automotive, radio / HAM antennas, weather, batteries, math, screws and drill sizes, wire gauges, electricity, solar, etc… I mean everything! (it’s cheap…$12+- on Amazon) and it fits in your pocket…(duh)

    Any homesteading book by John Seymore

    The Prepper’s Blueprint by Tess Pennington

    Kids Books:
    The Dangerous Book for Boys
    The Daring Book for Girls
    The Boy Scout Fieldbook (used pre-1970 edition is best)

    There’s dozens more, but we’ll keep it at these for now…

  • I view Daisy’s assemblage of those first 30 preparedness book as one early step in a longer process. Yes, we all have to start somewhere. No, a lot of us don’t stop with just 30 books — especially if we’d inherited a culture of learning, librarianship, and know-how.

    Here’s one dilemma: If you might ever need to bug out, while not knowing if your home will still be there when, or if, you’re able to return, how do you decide what books, knowledge, and formats you can physically take with you? At the extreme (where we learn best, even though we’d be horrified to live there), bugging out with a semi-truck load of books is really impractical. Yet, leaving behind a lifetime’s accumulation (and maybe even some cats that you use to complete the joking illusion of a used bookstore at home) — that you might never see again — is agonizing.

    Enter some modern technology. I was stunned a few years ago to learn that a couple of thousand books of classical literature (free public domain) were being sold in text format — all on one single flash drive — for under $10. Then I learned of the worldwide community of DIY book scanner makers and users, at

    https://www.diybookscanner.org/

    who are all different stages, from newbies to longtime experts, at building their own book scanners. Some of their excellent work is on YouTube — using PVC tubing and a couple of digital cameras.

    So what if the book you have your eye on is vintage, antique, or outrageously rare? You try an inter-library loan to see if you can borrow it for 2-4 weeks, scan it in, and then return it. You’re not making copies to sell, so there shouldn’t be a copyright problem.

    Suppose you don’t have the time that the DIYBookScanner people need to build and use their book scanners? There are services that for only a buck per book, will shear off the spine, scan the pages. shred or recycle those paper pages, and ship you a flash drive with all the books scanned on it that you ordered — plus the cost of shipping — which could be considerable. That’s a hard choice to make, but for some people, perhaps the only choice.

    What if the book is in ebook format? How do you copy that? Easy — get some screenshot-taking software that lets you crop the exact portion of the pages you want, and that also sequentially numbers your screenshots in the order you take them. I like a package called Gadwin PrintScreen.

    So it’s quite an adventure, going from the acquisition of prepper books through the process of making it possible for you to take them (or at least their scanned images) with you for the rest of your life, regardless of wherever you might need to go.

    —Lewis

  • Dear Daisy,

    The finest book which is “unknown” to America is :-
    “The Complete Book of Self Sufficency” by John Seymour.
    my copy was published in 1976 .This book changed our lives.
    Daft as it sounds :- “Scouting for Boys” by Baden Powell.
    “Jerky Everything” by Pamela Braun
    “the Vegetable Expert” by Dr.D.G.Hessayon -Rare but perfect.
    THIS IS THE ALL TIME CLASSIC :-
    “Cottage Economy” by william Cobbet First published in 1821 !!!!
    Another Classic :-
    “Food for Free” by Richard Mabey.
    Keep Going.

  • One book I would add to your list, is out of print, but can be found at used book stores and thrift shops is the Readers Digest “Back to Basics.” Originally printed in the 70’s and 80’s, it can be found as an eBook, but a hard copy is preferable. Checking several used book sites, I found copies available from $6.00 to $20.00. It has a wealth of information from A to Z, about self sufficiency. Some information is outdated, but more than 90% is applicable to today. It’s geared towards self sufficiency more than post apolyptic SHTF survival, but everything from small and large animal husbandry to septic systems is covered.
    It doesn’t cover self defense or tactical issues, but the other skills needed to successfully turn your bug out location into a homestead that will support you and your family in a TEOTAWKI era.
    A valuable resource for thriving not just surviving.

  • Lots of great books mentioned here! May I add Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss, Passport to Survival by Esther Dickey (lots of info on using the basic storage foods here), a later edition of Passport to Survival by her daughter Rita Bingham, and Skills for Survival also by Dickey and Bingham, More with Less and the More with Less Cookbook by Longacre.

  • The book ‘The Secure Home’ by Joel Skousen is quite good. He also wrote the book called Strategic Relocation: North American Guide to Safe Places. He did an interview with Alex Jones which is outstanding (and maybe better than the book for those not looking for a safer place). The link for it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jScbOP9T30I&t=2339s

  • I would add “The Non-Electric Lighting Series” (on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback). Check out with the Customer Reviews. BOOK 2, “Olive Oil Lamps &c.” and BOOK 3, “Lamp Fuels” are especially valuable.

    • Oops. Should be “Check out the Customer Reviews” and not “Check out WITH the Customer Reviews.” Sorry about that.

    • You can copy-and-paste “The Non-Electric Lighting Series” (including quote marks) into the Google search bar and see these books super fast. On a side note, 2021 is almost upon us. Let’s hope it’s a bit more fun than 2020, eh?

  • I also have Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal &Matthew Seal; Her Gardening for the Midwest by Debra Knapke & Laura Peters; A Handbook of Native American Herbs by Alma R. Hutchens; Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar; Prepare for Anything Survival Manual by Tim Macwelch; Countdown to Preparedness by Jim Cobb; and Build the Perfect Bug Out Survival Skills (Your Guide to Emergency Wilderness Survival) by Creek Stewart.

  • The original “How Things Work” books. They date back from the 70s. There have been updates to them.

  • Storey’s Basic Country Skills, John & Martha Storey
    Herbal Antibiotics, Stephen Harrod Buhner
    Herbal Antivirals, 2nd Edition, Stephen Harrod Buhner
    Backyard Foraging, Ellen Zachos
    The Forager’s Harvest, Samuel Thayer
    Regional Foraging Series book for your area
    Euell Gibbons books
    Storey Country Wisdom Bulletins
    Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, 2nd Edition, Carrol Deppe
    Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game, John J. Mettler
    Root Cellering, Mike & Nancy Bubel
    Water Storage, Art Ludwig
    Living Without Electricity: Lessons from the Amish, Stephen Scott
    Depression Era Recipes, Patricia R. Wagner
    Handy Farm Devices & How to Make Them, Rolfe Cobleigh
    Homemade Contrivances & How to Make Them

    Great article by the way Daisy.

  • By the way, thrift stores are a good place to find older books. Also check the sales tables at your local libraries. I’ve discovered a lot of libraries are in the process the last few years of phasing out the older books on their shelves. Might be some real finds there.

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